The Eighth Novel Is Out!

(Steven Novak cover)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, April 1, 2018, 12:24 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will make some readers angry. What doesn’t?

This novel is either my best or my best mess. I did my best. I put lots of effort into it. No one is objective about oneself. The readers decide for themselves, and their verdict is the one that counts.

This tale begins with isolated incidents.

A veteran sports columnist unexpectedly loses his job.

A rebellious young writer takes a weed-clouded trip to Southern California with a tawdry dropout.

Darin Fowler, armed. (Monte Dutton sketch)

An English teacher at a prep school toils in vain on a breakthrough novel, watching his teen-aged pupils grow rebellious and decadent and wondering if he is part of the solution or part of the problem.

All are related. All are drawn together as they gradually learn they are pawns in a vast illegal conspiracy.

The columnist’s new job is not one he chooses. The young writer mistakenly believes she is selling drugs by choice and rationalizes it in the name of writing a tell-all novel. The teacher sees in his charges mistakes he has already made.

(Monte Dutton sketch)

One is another’s daughter. She is the other’s lover.

Everything will be fine as long as they are obedient. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Against the backdrop of a presidential election, a group of powerful men work to corner the market on the illicit sale of marijuana. They have members with ties to tobacco, entertainment, law enforcement, national security, and politics.

Innocent people are being shot down in the streets by policemen who never are punished. Could this be more than coincidence?

(Monte Dutton sketch)

The plan seems perfect … until the election of Martin Gaynes, a man as corrupt as those who run the Consortium. Extreme measures are necessary as a potential dictatorship rises in the tumult.

No one, no matter how far from the center of power, is safe. No one can afford to mind his (or her) own business. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell becomes dangerous, impractical, and deadly.

(Monte Dutton sketch)

It began with two thoughts. One was that the title phrase, once used to describe a policy regarding gays who serve in the military, applies broadly to our lives. This novel has nothing to do with military service at all.

I watched the spread of incidents involving shootings of innocent people that were explained away as mistakes. The police thought a cell phone was a gun. They had a warrant for one person and shot another because of mistaken identity. For some reason, the surveillance cameras were turned off.

I thought, what if they weren’t mistakes? What if they were hits?

The idea grew and grew, repeatedly overrunning its banks.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been driven by this urgency to get it out because, as of right now, it’s current. Things in this country are changing so rapidly that a novel that is ‘ripped from the headlines’ is fleeting. Also, truth is so strange that it’s hard to write fiction. Right now, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is up to date with the culture around it. The evidence suggests this won’t last long.

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Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which are available for sale here.


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